Chinese Influence on Western Ideals: A Conversation with Martin Powers, Part 1


The Athenaeum Review art

Our guest on this episode is Martin Powers, the Sally Michelson Davidson Professor of Chinese Arts and Cultures at the University of Michigan, and the author most recently of China and England: the Preindustrial Struggle for Justice in Word and Image.

In Part One:

Growing up in Back of the Yards, Chicago, the first person in the family to go to college (1:15) — inspired by picking up a Dover Classics edition of Zhuangzi, the radical 4th-century BCE philosopher (1:30) — Robert Maynard Hutchins-style Great Books education at Shimer College, reading only primary sources (2:00) — Chinese language study at the University of Chicago (2:45) — from UCLA to Michigan (3:00) — Art and Political Expression in Early China (1992), before economic and social history was as widely recognized within art history (3:30) — Pattern and Person: Ornament, Society, and Self in Classical China (2006) and the origins of bureaucratic theory in China from the earlier ritual system (4:00) — administrative and bureaucratic history and social theory (4:45) — the perennial questions of class and social structures (5:15) — Great Books are not just Western (5:45) —

Han funerary art and the question of style (7:15) — public funerary monuments and the power of art in the hands of the middle classes (7:45) — private political organizations working against the government, and the breakdown of the rule of law and distinction between public and private in Han society, in the middle of the 2nd century BCE (8:45) — unqualified people appointed to public office (9:45) — the war of words leads to a war of art, and the dynasty collapses (10:15) — how different styles of art establish different social structures in the Han period (10:45) — Charles Tilly and societies organized by individual or by group (12:30) — group-oriented sumptuary laws in Europe and China (13:00) — do historians pay enough attention to art objects and visual culture? (14:00) — how art objects provide a different kind of evidence than do documents (14:45)